A glitzy and grown-up design, with fun and family entertainment galore, including huge waterslides and the first ropes course at sea.

Carnival Cruise Lines has made a spectacular return to Europe after a three-year absence, basing its newest and biggest ‘Fun Ship,’ Carnival Magic, in Barcelona for the summer.

The ship weighs in at 130,000 tonnes, holds 3,690 passengers, and boasts a couple of firsts for Carnival and for cruising generally. There’s RedFrog, Carnival’s first pub; Cucina del Capitano, its first Italian speciality restaurant; and the SkyCourse, the first ropes course at sea.

Carnival Magic was christened in Venice in May by Godmother Lindsay Wilkerson, a former patient at the St Jude Research Hospital, a children’s cancer hospital in Tennessee.

First impressions
Carnival has left behind the kitsch designs that interior architect Joe Farcus was famous for, replacing them with a more grown-up look that’s still super glitzy, lively, colourful and vibrant. A real wow! The ship’s size, however, means check-in is going to be a slow process – as was getting on and off the ship generally. Pack plenty of patience along with a black tie for formal night. 7/10

Cabin
My balcony stateroom was comfortable, roomy, and in Carnival’s trademark tan-and-peach cabin colour. It had a TV, safe, minibar and hairdryer, but no branded toiletries in the bathroom, just shampoo and shower gel dispensers in the shower. Carnival Magic has inside, oceanview and balcony cabins and suites, divided into various categories to suit all budgets. They include deluxe oceanview cabins that hold up to five people and have a separate bathroom and washroom (handy if you’re travelling with kids), and ‘cove cabins’ down near the waterline with balconies cut into the ship’s superstructure, making them fairly enclosed – and thus
very affordable. 7/10

Service
Waiters and bar staff were friendly and efficient throughout my Carnival Magic review, but don’t come here expecting white-star service. Instead, it’s cheerful, fun-loving and rather reminiscent of being in the Caribbean. At the customer services desk, inquiries were dealt with quickly and professionally. 7/10

Food
The food in the dining room was fine, but much better in Prime, the steakhouse, and Cucina del Capitano, the Italian family restaurant that has debuted on Magic. Both cost extra, but at $30 and $10 per person respectively they are a bargain given the quality of the cuisine. The buffet was popular for breakfast and lunch, when separate serving stations had everything from Mongolian stir fries and Indian curries to deli-style sandwiches, burgers, pizzas and meat and-two-veg. You can create your own pasta dishes at no charge in the Cucina del Capitano at lunchtime or pick up super-tasty Caribbean-style pub grub in the RedFrog – just $3.82 including a 15 per cent gratuity. 7/10

Entertainment
Only one of the three theatre production shows was ready for the inaugural trip, but it was spectacular, both for the illusions performed by Jason Byrne and for the technology, which must have tested Carnival’s technicians to the limit. I’m told the other shows include 70s music and a game-show parody. A couple of comedians play the Punchliner Comedy Club several evenings a week, with family and adult-only shows. Come evening, there are live bands and singers in the pub, piano bar, atrium and Ocean Plaza. 8/10

Activities
The big new activity to include in my Carnival Magic review is the ropes course on the top deck, where you can get harnessed up and clamber over tightropes, swinging beams and nets. It’s part of the new Sports Square, with outdoor keep-fit equipment, minigolf and a jogging track. If heights aren’t your thing, try the water slides – there are two, both super-fast, both great fun for kids of all ages. I loved them! 8/10

Public areas
RedFrog, Carnival’s first pub, is a huge hit, packed every evening with folk imbibing its own-brand beer, ThirstyFrog Red. Ocean Plaza is a large outdoor entertainment area with whirlpools that extend over the side of the ship. There’s also a sushi bar, coffee and cake shop here, and a large stage. Play it Again, the piano bar, was packed each evening. Next door is the Spotlight Lounge, which doubles as the comedy club, and nearby is Vibe, the nightclub, modelled on South Beach with its white sofas and trendy drapes. Serenity is an adult-only quiet space on the top deck where you can hide away from the crowds. 8/10

Shore excursions
Carnival sells a host of different day trips, from cookery lessons to scenic coach rides to city tours. They are well organised – meet in the theatre, get a number, board the coach when called – but not cheap. However, the two guides I had were good and the trips are an easy way to see a lot. 7/10

Spa
The most serene part of the ship, where therapists talk in hushed tones and pamper passengers with sublime massages, facials and body wraps. There are also clinical treatments that claim to make you look 10 years younger. A cruise pass – $99 (£63) for seven days – lets you into the thermal suite, with heated mosaic beds, sauna and steam room. 7/10

Kids’ club
Carnival Magic has a huge area devoted to youngsters aged two to 17. There’s Camp Carnival for kids aged up to 11, Circle C for the tweens aged 12 to 14 and Club 02 for teens aged 15 to 17. There are supervised age-specific activities such as t-shirt painting, dodgeball and pool parties in Camp Carnival; more freedom for the tweens, with sports tournaments and video games; and discos and and pool parties for the teens. 8/10

Overall
What I’ve learned during my Carnival Magic review is that this is a fantastic ship for families and young-at-heart couples. Book if you fancy a lively, fun cruise with loads of other people. Stay away if you hate crowds.

FINAL VERDICT: 68%